A premium on equality

‘Sorry girls, costly car insurance is the price you pay for gender equality!’ One writer says it’s about time the unfair ‘penis tax’ was abolished.

Jeremy Clarkson once said on Top Gear that the only way young men could afford motor insurance is if they were to cut off their genitals. But by the end of this year, this measure will no longer be necessary.

From 21 December, policy providers will no longer be able to calculate premiums based on a person’s gender – because the European Court of Justice has deemed it ‘unfair’. And it’s women who’ll be affected most by the ruling. In fact, industry experts are predicting a ‘seismic’ impact on feminine purse strings across the country.

Currently, female drivers tend to get much cheaper car insurance because assessors consider them ‘low risk’. This is not because they necessarily have fewer accidents – men and women do, actually, have the same number of crashes – but because cars smashed up by men generally cost more for insurers to repair.

While some people assume it is therefore common sense to charge men more, the reality for safe, responsible drivers like myself – of which we are the majority – is anything but. Just look at the facts.

There’s a whopping 41 per cent discrepancy between the average annual premium for new male and female drivers, according to Gocompare.com – even before they’re on the road.

For young men of 17 and 18, the gap is even wider: an epic 88 per cent. Translate this to cash and men pay an extra £1,776 for exactly the same policy as the girl next door (even if she then goes out and crashes her car the following week).

This isn’t based on anything scientific like driving test score or psychological analysis; it’s just about gender. A sweeping generalisation which, for years, was considered ‘good’ sexism because it favoured girls. Proper Made in Dagenham stuff.

But what has made it worse is that men have never been able to prove themselves before getting stung. In addition, it takes years of having a no-claims bonus to even slightly reduce a man’s policy, while a woman’s could be re-priced from the bargain bin immediately after an accident. But no more.

Figures from the Association of British Insurers predict that female drivers will now see a 25 per cent price hike in their annual policy as the law levels out, while men can expect a 10 per cent reduction.

For the thousands of them who drive carefully and just happen to be 18, the change will be like a lottery-sized win: both financially and politically. For a men’s campaigner like me (with, by the way, more than ten years of accident-free driving under my seatbelt), it’s also the perfect Christmas gift.

But while politicians like Harriet Harman still like to claim that a gender pay gap exists, she happily ignores the life expectancy gap – because women have the advantage. This insurance surcharge for men – what I jokingly refer to as the ‘penis tax’ – is absolutely no different. But it is, dare I say it, complete nonsense.

Even though my very first car was a modest, second-hand Renault 5 which I started driving in 1997, I still had to fork out more money than a female friend who was bought a brand new, powerful VW by her father.

Even when one of my sisters had to be cut out of a car after she collided with a double-decker bus in London, her insurance remained LESS than mine (even though I had no time to drive because I was working double-shifts in my weekend job to pay for it).

Fifteen years on, I’ve still never had an accident – but am coughing up more money than that girl at college, even though her car got written off because she was applying make-up while driving.

Don’t get me wrong, reckless racers should contribute more if they drive like idiots and put people at risk, but it’s a policy that should apply across the board. That said, this isn’t the fault of women. Far from it – the fault lies with the system. A lazy, unrefined industry which uses an out-dated, blanket way to calculate risk without seeing its customers as individuals. Something which, for any business, is always a car crash of an approach.

But it managed to thrive for so long because we live in a society that laughs at the so-called novelty of men being discriminated against (just look at those patronising Sheila’s Wheels adverts – eugh!).

Thankfully, it’s all about to change, but it won’t be an easy pill for the sisterhood to swallow. Not least because it means the blame for bad driving can no long be placed solely at our door.

Gocompare.com’s head of motor insurance, Scott Kelly, said: ‘From 21 December insurers will be prohibited from using gender in their pricing. ‘But, as our survey shows, there has been no equalization of rates to date, so the introduction of unisex pricing is likely to have a sudden, dramatic impact as insurers seem to be holding off until the last minute.

‘We expect that the implementation of unisex rates will see premiums equalised at the higher male rate, rather than at the lower rate for females.

‘If that is the case, women drivers will see their premiums rise by just over £300 on average, but for younger age groups the increase could be as much as £2,000.’

This might be an eye-watering amount to shell out before Christmas, but ladies, take comfort in the fact that we’ve been paying these rates since the beginning of time – whether we’re good drivers or not. At the very least, you’ll now know what it feels like to strive for a blemish-free, no-claims insurance policy. This can only be a good thing. On top of that, you’ll also be buying into something that’s now equal and balanced. New and improved.

After all, you can’t put a price on fairness – unless you’re an insurer, and then it’s about £2,000.

This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail and was reposted with the author’s permission.

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